Fire management.

Interim Chief D’Orazi does not have the state credentials, training, or experience, to be a fire chief. Or even a second or third in command, let alone a first in command. He does not have the qualifications to be able to hire the person who shall replace Chief Fisher (who quit quite suddenly earlier this summer, wouldn’t you say?). His certifications and experience sets are meager compared to that those directly under him: Olson, Tenny, Zombeck.

Fisher had state chief certifications. Yet Mayor Gilmore and Interim City Manager Goldman saw fit to replace him with a wholly unqualified-for-chief firefighter.  Why?

Isn’t it enough that the fire department has shown time and time again that they cannot perform? That their procedures and protocols are dangerously inadequate?! I guess not: Mayor Gilmore added fuel to that fire by placing an unqualified-for-chief firefighter at the helm of the AFD. … No wonder Fisher quit! This shows quite clearly that Mayor Gilmore is purely political; not a citizen legislator working on our behalves, but a politician prioritizing her political alliances and debts over properly leading the city and optimizing the services for, and safety of, her constituents.

D’Orazi’s certificates show that he did just about the least amount of training required to be a firefighter, and then did significant training in 2005, the year he retired, so that he could teach. Moreover, all of his coursework was extraneous to what is needed to be chief and in fire management.

D’Orazi was president of the IAFF Local 689 when he was working as a firefighter in the AFD until 2005 when he retired.  The IAFF Local 689 has funded the 2010 campaigns of Gilmore, Bonta, Tam, and Johnson both in 2010 and in 2011. It’s not hard to connect the dots here. This is yet another example of the rife but legal corruption in our city’s leadership.

Those in charge (GilBonTamJo) are trading in influence (campaign dollars in exchange for positions and contracts).  In this case, it is exacerbating the known and entirely unacceptable (and unnecessary!) risks to every Alamedan posed by  the substandard AFD responses to events.  We KNOW the AFD has repeatedly failed to perform and that those failures have caused great harm: 2009 FISC fire, 2010 Crude Oil Spill, 2011 Zack Assisted Suicide.  Those failures are directly correlated to substandard, inadequate, incomplete, and possibly obsolete procedures and protocols, to systemic failures that are easily correctable.

Since 2009, I’ve been demanding of city leadership, city management, and fire management that this be addressed.  The GOBs (general operating bulletins) are just as stale and inadequate today as they were in 2009. They are so outdated that they are only available in hard copy because they were generated on a typewriter back when (1980s and 1990s).

IT IS ENTIRELY UNACCEPTABLE that the city and fire departments have not addressed this before now: that Chief Kapler and Chief Fisher did not one single thing to improve the GOBs. With or without past failures, it is appropriate for the AFD to be run consistent with current standards in the industry of firefighting! The public has the right to expect that the fire department is required to perform up to current standards in the industry. We have a right to expect rescue when in the water.  We have a right to expect the AFD to engage regional and state agencies when events are toxic. We have a right to expect the AFD to know how to engage mutual aid to get the job done when needed.

It is entirely unacceptable that Mayor Gilmore has chosen an unqualified firefighter to lead the AFD who does not have the skillset and training to be a chief or interview and hire people for management positions directly under the position of chief. I know of no city who hires a firefighter, who does not hold the proper training, background, and certificates to be a chief, as their fire chief for a city the size of ours: 74,000 people. It makes no sense!  Moreover, D’Orazi’s CV doesn’t qualify him for the $300K or whatever his pay/bennies package provides him.  We are paying a chief’s salary for a $150K/year firefighter! We have an average firefighter as our fire chief, running a fire department for a rather large city….HUH?

Per my talk at the podium last night at the City Council Meeting (at 32 minutes, 40 seconds),  it is incumbent upon City Manager Russo to fix this. We cannot allow the AFD to continue with their substandard performance criteria as surely this will lead to yet another substandard response that may harm us!

I’m not saying D’Orazi isn’t affable; he is. And as Vice Mayor pointed out last night, D’Orazi has generously allocated time to meet with concerned citizens. But hold up there Vice Mayor: this is not unique or extraordinary! Every other chief, Kapler and Fisher, met with me and other concerned citizens too! This is what you bring up to counter my talk about D’Orazi’s lack of qualifications?  I tell you, just like the Alameda Healthcare District (AHD) board, when I bring up fact-based, evidence-based, concerns, those in charge are wholly dismissive. The pained tolerance on their faces when I speak is the first clue. The second is their predictable dismissiveness, like they just want the public talking done with so they can get back to doing what they want to do regardless of what makes sense.  Talking to City Council (and the AHD board) is like talking to the Mad Hatter: it’s Opposite City.

Note to city leadership: I expect the mayor, vice-mayor, and city council members to LEAD the city, not sit there and be cheerleaders to the fire department!

Note to CM Russo: we are a mayor-weak form of government. As such, it is incumbent upon you to manage up, to properly inform and manage the mayor and city council, and deviate from their sentiment and opinions when appropriate. When our city leadership is taking us in directions that are contradicted by every industry standard and norm, when those directions are putting residents of our city at increased risk, it is incumbent upon you to fix this.  Post haste. You inherited this situation; but it MUST be addressed immediately. Radical changes at the AFD are needed, and you have the opportunity to do so by replacing D’Orazi and filling Fisher’s position with people who are competent, qualified, and capable of optimizing the fire department by bringing it up to contemporary standards and instituting performance based management. Doing anything less and/or postponing these needed radical and immediate actions is a failure to prioritize the public’s safety.

Solutions:

1. Replace current management personnel with those who have RECENT/CONTEMPORARY training and who know how to optimize fire GOBs for our city and her conditions; and immediately put into place performance-based management of both management and firefighters; and most importantly, provide the criteria for our firefighters to perform at least to the minimal levels dictated by contemporary standards in the industry of firefighting so that management can require standard performance and act against those firefighters that underperform. And conversely, so that our firefighters can get back to doing their best work because they will have the tools and GOBs to perform to the best of their abilities.

OR

2. Move to County Fire where the leadership is outperforming, where operating procedures and protocols are already up to date, where engaging mutual aid is not a four-letter word but a sought-after skill to properly address a number of event types, and where firefighters must compete for their jobs, i.e., they must perform to the contemporary standards within the trade of fire fighting.  Oh, and this will save us 10%, something like $2.5M. I opt for this choice as it is the most painless (everything in Alameda will continue to look the same) and quickest way to get to where our fire safety services need to be, and to provide quality management and GOBs for our frontline firefighters.

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About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

4 responses to “Fire management.

  • Denise Lai

    The Radical Notion that Facts Matter:

    – Out of a possible 8 Fire Command Certificates, IFC D’Orazi holds a mere 2 while chiefs prior to him and those currently under him hold 7.

    – Out of a possible 9 Fire Management certificates, IFC D’Orazi holds 1 (Fire Management I, that’s all) while chiefs prior to him and those currently under him hold 5 or 6.

    -While IFC D’Orazi appears to have held no FIRE OFFICER position prior to now, while chiefs prior to him and those currently under him have several years as chief if not a decade or more.

    The evidence is overwhelming: no fire department in a city our size (74,000 people) should be led by someone whose career is so sorely lacking in the appropriate certificates, training, or experience to be a fire chief.

  • zizzlahLiz

    GilTamBonJo have no interest in a well-run affordable fire and paramedic service. Alamedans don’t seem to mind having a low-volume, sub-standard hospital. Everyone seems to be too busy merrily fiddling away to notice that the combined exorbitant salaries and pensions we pay for the AFD is going to bankrupt the cities, ans the Kevin’s accurately predict. Until Alamedans wake up and vote for candidates who ill buck the status quo, unqualified chiefs like D’Orazai will continue to take the stage in the ongoing farce that is Alameda city politics. And the Firefighters union will continue to buy as many seats on the council and as many mayors as it needs.

    Three ballot measures might help Alamedans realize they have a real choice: 1. A city charter amendment that gives the Kevins (and subsequent city treasurers and auditors) power to veto budgets that are not balanced, 2. to a referendum about merging our fire department with the well-equipped, well-managed county fire service and 3. A revision to the hospital parcel tax that causes it to expire. Many Alamedans are not aware that the original parcel tax was passed without an end date; effectively a blank check in perpetuity.

  • Denise Lai

    Other cities, even smaller cities, have extensive requirements for Fire Chief, e.g., a B.A., M.A., or M.S. (particularly in Fire Science, Fire, Business, or Public Administration), achievement of–at a minimum–Level III in Fire Officer and Fire Fighter certificates, a minimum of 2 to 10 years of consecutive senior officer experience. And these cities require this while offering far less pay that our extremely generous city provides!

    It is incumbent upon CM Russo to fix this! He has the opportunity here to fill two fire management positions (replace D’Orazi and fill Fisher’s vacancy) with truly qualified people. Doing anything less is reckless endangerment of our public safety.

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